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PostPosted: 02 Jul 2008, 21:24 
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Media Advisory
Press distorts Clark's comments

7/2/08


Dramatically misleading accounts of comments made by retired general Wesley Clark concerning Republican nominee John McCain have dominated corporate media campaign coverage for days.

Clark's statement on CBS's Face the Nation (6/29/08) that "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president" has been distorted and taken dramatically out of context. Media have portrayed Clark's comment as an attack on McCain's military record, with some journalists even likening it to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign to smear John Kerry's service record (FAIR Media Advisory, 8/30/04).

Clark's comment was made after Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer asked the former general about his previous statement that McCain was "untested and untried." In his response, Clark declared:

"I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war."

However, Clark argued that McCain's military experience did not have any direct correlation with the executive responsibilities that a president faces.

At this point, Schieffer interrupted Clark's answer:


SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean...

CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

SCHIEFFER: Really?


The language that has caused such controversy was thus actually borrowed from the CBS host. Yet as Media Matters has documented (7/1/08), several media reports quoted Clark without mentioning the comment from the CBS host that prompted Clark's controversial statement, and many failed to note that Clark had praised McCain's military record. Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz actually criticized Clark in an online article (Washington Post.com, 7/1/08) for not offering such praise: "Barack Obama frequently prefaces his criticism of McCain with a nod to his honorable service. Which raises the question: What was Wes thinking?"

Moreover, many journalists misleadingly implied that Clark's comments were an attack on McCain's military service record. The New York Times (7/1/08) referred to Clark's comments as having "diminished Senator John McCain's service as a naval aviator in Vietnam." On the June 30 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Monica Novotny claimed that Clark "blasted McCain's military record."

In the Wall Street Journal (6/30/08), Gerald Seib and Sara Murray wrote, "The one certainty of the 2008 campaign, it might have seemed, was that Sen. John McCain would be acknowledged all around as a war hero for his service in Vietnam--but apparently not." On ABC World News (6/30/08), Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics called Clark's statement "almost the equivalent for them of an attack on Obama's race by the McCain side. It's just something you don't do."

Some outlets, including the Los Angeles Times (7/1/08) and NPR (6/30/08) compared the dust-up to the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a conservative group that peddled inaccurate stories about John Kerry's Vietnam record, asserting that he did not deserve the medals he had been awarded. The host of NPR's Bryant Park Project Mike Pesca called Clark's comments "pretty much the same as John Kerry and the swift boating."

The comparison between Clark's statements and the Swift Boats campaign is absurd. Clark had praised McCain's military service in the CBS interview, before pointing out that this was not a qualification for the presidency (a point that McCain himself has made several times, and which numerous conservative media commentators noted in regards to Kerry in 2004--Media Matters, 7/1/08). For the two situations to be at all similar, Clark would have to have said that McCain was embellishing his record as a POW. In fact, the only connection between these two phenomena would seem to be the fact that McCain's campaign has hired a former member of the Swift Boat campaign to work on his own presidential bid (CNN.com, 6/30/08).

Another difference is that the media were much quicker to denounce Clark's comments than they were the Swift Boat smears. As an editorial in the L.A. Times (8/24/04) noted back in 2004, "The canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false." As FAIR noted at the time (FAIR Media Advisory, 8/30/04), "One suspects that the "canons of the profession" would be interpreted differently if, for example, Republican Sen. John McCain was the target of similarly unsubstantiated charges about his military service from a partisan Democratic group."

Or, as it turns out, if McCain were the target of legitimate questions about the relevance of his military experience to the job of president.

This article is available at: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3565






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Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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PostPosted: 05 Jul 2008, 10:39 
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*sigh*

So if I say that Tiger Woods' golfing ability has nothing to do with being qualified to be president, I'm saying that Tiger Woods is a bad golfer. Idiots and liars. *spit*

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PostPosted: 05 Jul 2008, 22:40 
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It reminds me when a scandal occurred about a local 'book doctor', an article mentioned the man was 'a former pool salesman'.

Like, don't we ALL hold 'former' jobs that have little to anythign to do with our current careers?

Does once being a short order cook now make Hex unable to teach?

:protest:

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PostPosted: 06 Jul 2008, 07:13 
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That's common when you're trying to disparage the target. Illogical, but common.

Rob

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PostPosted: 06 Jul 2008, 13:42 
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Damn that liberal press!

Oh, wait a minute...

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PostPosted: 09 Jul 2008, 15:48 
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Activism Update

NPR host responds to FAIR

7/9/08


The host of NPR's Bryant Park Project, Mike Pesca, has responded to FAIR's media advisory "Press Distorts Clark's Comments" (7/2/08), which quoted Pesca (6/30/08) as likening Wesley Clark's statements about John McCain's Vietnam record to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign to smear John Kerry's service record.

In a letter to FAIR, Pesca argued that he had been referring to "vociferous McCain critics," not Clark.

FAIR reported in the advisory:


Some outlets, including the Los Angeles Times (7/1/08) and NPR (6/30/08) compared the dust-up to the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a conservative group that peddled inaccurate stories about John Kerry's Vietnam record, asserting that he did not deserve the medals he had been awarded. The host of NPR's Bryant Park Project Mike Pesca called Clark's comments "pretty much the same as John Kerry and the Swift Boating. "
In a letter to FAIR (see full text below), Pesca defended his statement, and challenged FAIR's interpretation of it:


If you look at what the "it" was in the sentence I uttered, it's clear that what I was saying was that the "stuff on liberal blogs" questioning John McCain's war record was akin to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's questioning of Kerry.

Pesca added that "it's clear that grammatically I mean that the vociferous McCain critics (critics...not Clark) are swift boating him, just as Kerry was swiftboated."

In his June 30 broadcast, after giving his thoughts on "the Clark quote," Pesca had asked his guest, John Harris of Politico, "But what are your thoughts on it?" After Pesca's response, which mentioned both Clark and unnamed "liberal blogs," Pesca summarized Harris by saying, "So, it's pretty much the same as John Kerry and the Swift Boating." FAIR interpreted the "it" in Pesca's question and summary to refer to the same thing--Clark's remark. If that was not Pesca's intent, we regret misconstruing him.

But the point Pesca says he was making is still a stretch. As FAIR pointed out in 2004 (and recalled in the recent advisory), a comparable "Swift Boating" of John McCain would be a multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign questioning his actual Vietnam record--not a handful of Internet comments.

Below is Pesca's letter to FAIR:

***************

Hi, in your alert you said that I compared Clark's comments to Swiftboating. I did not. If you look at what the IT was in the sentence I uttered, it's clear that what I was saying was that the "stuff on liberal blogs" questioning John McCain's war record, was akin to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's questioning of Kerry. Look at the antecedent to the exchange:
HARRIS: the thing is, you can find much stronger stuff on liberal blogs. We had a story in Politico today about just a number of commentators saying, wait a minute, what is John McCain's war record, really?

PESCA: So, it's pretty much the same as John Kerry and the swift boating, except that it was a part of John Kerry's biography. It's a much bigger part of John McCain's biography.

HARRIS: That's right, and I think the lesson of both campaigns is the same, that if you think there are certain topics that are just off limits, verboten, in a presidential election, that's not true.
Its clear that grammatically I mean that the vociferous McCain critics (critics...not Clark) are swift boating him, just as Kerry was swiftboated. It is also pretty clear that this was my intention. Look at how I framed the Wes Clark quote:

PESCA: ...Now, I didn't see "Face the Nation," because all the Sunday shows are on, like, at the same time, so you've got to pick your battles.

HARRIS: TiVo, TiVo!

PESCA: Yeah, I know, and I listen to them on the iPod later. But I did see the Clark quote online, and I almost fell off my chair. I thought that was a beyond-the-pale attack, especially by a fellow member of the military. But then, I saw it in more context, it seemed a more understandable quote. He was answering a question. But what are your thoughts on it?

I am trying to give Clark the benefit of the doubt there. I should also add that in future shows I asked the staff to play the full quote, with the full exchange with Schieffer, for the very reason that I thought it was more fair to Wes Clark. Would you please print a correction on the bottom of your next alert and on the web site? I worked for a media criticism show (On the Media) for years, I believe in media accountability, that is one reason why on the BPP I was trying to be very fair, complete and contextual. I was pretty much trying to do the right thing, the thing that FAIR would like to see all journalists doing. If you guys rip the job I've done I think it hurts your credibility, and gives a negative message to members of the media about the value of actually getting it right.






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Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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